The Thanksgiving edition of the weekend mail
Happy Thanksgiving, Irregulars.
If you get some time between cooking the turkey and avoiding that Old Odd Uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable, there’s some fun stuff in here.
Q: Doug: While watching some of the MLB playoff games, I noticed that some of the home teams have the dugout that’s on the 1st base side, while the Jays have theirs on the 3rd base side. Is this just a team preference? Is there an advantage to one side or the other? Thanks for an informative blog.
Ken B, Matheson
A: There are no hard and fast rules about which teams sit on which side of the stadium and a few factors go into the decision whenever the park is being constructed or renovated.
Sometimes it’s as simple as home team doesn’t want to have the dugout that faces into the sun, sometimes it’s the position of the palatial home team clubhouse that determines it, sometimes it’s just the way it is.
I know I would also prefer to be on the third base side because it made it easier to rely signals from the dugout to the third base coach but that was simply a personal preference. It may factor into a decision every now and then but there are a few things to consider.
Q: Hey Doug! So, if you ever get tired of listening to good music - or the sound of your own voice accompanying said good music - on yours road trips around the Golden Horseshoe to the Niagara Peninsula and back, a suggestion: audiobooks. They're a marvellous way to catch up on new reads and revisit some old classics while driving. For example: I recently enjoyed listening to "The Scarlet Pimpernel" with "vintage" voices of Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland, and The Old Man and The Sea as narrated by the one and only Donald Sutherland. It's so important to match the right voice to the right book, wouldn't you say? So, do you listen to books? And if not, could you name a favourite story and the person whose voice you would enjoy hearing tell it to you? (For example I've always thought Diana Rigg narrating Agatha Christie would be a match made in mystery-lovers heaven!) Thanks!
Lorie P, London
A: I haven’t done a lot of Books on Tape over the years, I recall Super Family passing the drive to Ottawa with them every now and then but I presume I was on the road and not with them.
Wouldn’t Richard Burton doing Dickens fit?
Or James Earl Jones doing, well, doing anything, be kind of cool. I can see him reading a biography and bringing the subject to life.
Other than that, I’m tossing this out there to see what the Irregulars can come up with.
Have at it, folks.
Q: I don't remember you doing this list and the Honeymooners clip this week made me think of the old TV. game show with Groucho Marx called You bet Your Life, I am not old enough to remember seeing it live but it was on after school in repeats on channel 10 in London, Ont., years ago and it cracked me up, it was classic stuff along with Little Rascals....but my question is this, what are your top 5 game shows??....mine are Newlywed game, some of those answers were hilarious and still funny to watch the bloopers or outtakes on Youtube, then Dating Game, Match game, Hollywood Squares, and Jeopardy are my top 5, with You Bet Your Life and Love Connection honourable mentions...and maybe What's Your Line as well....ok Happy Thanksgiving weekend
Doug B, Toronto
A: I’m usually tied up in Criminal Minds marathons or old Law and Order re-runs or a Seinfeld or Modern Family to really pay any attention to modern game shows, if such a thing even exists.
The one exception:
Great show to play along with others and still something I try to click on to every now and then in the evening.
After that, it’s a rather sharp drop off and if you’re looking to the past, I’ll give you:
The Paul Lydne was a hoot.
To Tell The Truth
How about that Kitty Carlisle? Or the zany Soupy Sales?
What’s My Line?
Wasn’t that where we first heard Johnny Olson?
Front Page Challenge
No, this isn’t a fop to Canadiana, it was actually a very cool show.
Now, I do remember laughing at the Newlywed Game and I can recall wanting to check out the contestants at the Dating Game so we’ll toss those on as alternates.
Q: Hi Doug, I love the split mailbag now that news is pretty sparse. Where I used to make the rounds to a ton of different basketball websites, spending some time over in Europe this year, with the time difference, turned reading about basketball into more of a casual thing than a full-time hobby. But Doug Smith's blog has remained full-time daily reading. I may fall a day or two behind, occasionally, but I've probably read every single one, even if a few days late, for a couple of years at least.
Anyway, on to the question. And I hope it wasn't covered (I think maybe you mentioned it once, but hopefully was a long time ago). As a sportswriter, you spend a lot of time with the "heroes of the (insert sport's playing surface here)". Furthermore, I'd imagine the hero-worship has to die immediately, or else you'd have been out of a job many years ago. But are there a couple of basketballers (or in any sport) who have come through the cracks? Where you just said to yourself "Oh my... I can't believe I'm talking to …"?
I think Red Auerbach at one time, Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabaar would do it for me.
David T, Ottawa
It’s been more like guys like, yes, Bill Russell and Wayne Embry who’ve made my eyes widened, guys who have lived and have stories to tell and who have helped get the game where it is to do.
I will admit to being a bit awestruck once, though.
It was as the pre-Games press party for the Sydney Olympics, they had us in a private tented area right at the top of the homestretch with our own bookies and their chalk and the like and when this guy came walking through, jaws dropped, including mine.
There was no conversation as such but there was no doubt you were in the presence of an amazing man.
First and only time I was ever close to Muhammad Ali.
Q: As they say Happy Thanksgiving! I am blessed with health, family and employment. And of course wish you and all the readers the same in the coming year. So it appears Mr. stern will be canceling the first 2 weeks of season because of course he can. Then I suspect the players will force another 2 weeks to be cancelled because they can. So that takes us to roughly an early December start to the season. So how do they treat the abbreviated season as far as records go? Put the asterick beside everything or pretend it never happened ? Please note no mention of next years draft :-)
John P, Minneapolis
A: They did nothing to denote any significant marks set in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and I’d imagine that would be the case again this time around. Guess the only question would be how they pro-rate various “minimums” for such things as shooting percentages (what would be the minimum number of FT attempts necessary to “win” that category) and we’ll have to wait to see what they come up with.
And thanks for leaving off the draft query although it’s been a week or two since I’ve had it asked seriously and I’m a little saddened by that.
Q: Hi Doug. Thanks for answering my off the wall question yesterday. No question this time, just a link in case your younger readers didn't know who Ann Margrock was, or your not so young readers wanted to walk down memory lane.
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: These are my Irregulars and the things they can find.
I (heart) this place.
Q: Hi Doug: You asked for mail, but this may not meet your standards.
As a journalist, do you have any photographic skills? If, because of cutbacks, YOU had to take the in-game pictures, and perhaps post-game interview photos, how good would they be? Has photography ever been a part of your job?
Thanks for all that you do for all of us - it certainly goes way above and beyond!
Tim H, Windsor
A: My standards? Surely you know after all this time that my standards are, um, marginal. (I keed).
Anyway, I see what our photographers do, how they anticipate action every now and then, how they position themselves to have the best chance at making a memorable picture and it’s an art that I cannot come close to matching. I do have some skills but they are marginal; in this day and age they need sharpening, especially in the videography department because I think that’s a skill people in my spot are going to need in the future.
And they seem to have made phones and cameras and video machines so easy to use even I can’t screw it up and may shoot the odd still or video in a practice session.
There was a time though …
Back in day when I was a Wee Grunt, photography was very much part of our job. In my first three or four gigs, we had to shoot our own pictures, develop the negatives (man, I hated those old bulky 2 1-4 by 2 1-4 negs) and make our own prints.
Somehow, I survived that aspect of the job and moved onto bigger papers where I didn’t have to do it.
Q: Greetings, enjoyed the pucks IGBT the other night, and was left with a couple of thoughts. Firstly, as some guy with the name of Marshall something once said, perhaps the medium is more important than the message. And secondly, I wonder if there is an accepted number of generations to be exposed to before some form of critical mass is attained? Our HOTH really haven't been around long enough to have been front and center in enough of our lives yet. The pucks IGBT was notable for the number of long ago reminisces, in a number of cases memories from childhoods. At some point some SuperGrandad will be regaling his grandson/daughter with tales of some guy named Vince hitting last minute three pointers to win some game and setting the hook for another generation to enjoy the game.
As always thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think there has to be probably three generations before you get to what you’re talking about with wistful strolls down memory lane.
If you watched something or someone with your Mom or Dad and can pass that on to son or daughter, that’s kind of cool and it strikes me that, on the whole, the Irregular IGBT crowd may fall into that category, or at the very least be able to recall two generations of teams.
For the HOTH? Now we have nothing, really, which is a combination of failure on the court and simple time and I’m sure it gets better as this decade unfolds. Now we’re left to a couple of so-so years in the early 2000s and a roster dotted with marginal talent easier to mock than fondly recall.
Q: Alright, I know hypotheticals are often dumb, but you lack mail and there's no basketball going on aside from some pick-up and Slovenian exhibition games or something.
Let's consider building the perfect beast. Pick a position, then incorporate skills of all of the players to ever ply their trade at that slot. No passing ability of Steve Nash mixed with shot blocking of Manute Bol.
Say, PG could be passing skills of Nash, court sense of Stockton, speed of Paul, rebounding of Kidd, etc.
As many positions as you like, depending on the depth of mail. Cheers.
Jonathan M, Tokyo
A: I’ll start and let some of the others finish, okay?
How about if Dwight Howard had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook, Bill Walton’s court vision and passing skils and Yao Ming’s free throw shooting ability?
What if Reggie Miller had Vince Carter’s dunking ability?
Imagine Steve Nash with Magic Johnson’s size?
How about Dirk Nowitzki with Karl Malone’s bulk and Tim Duncan’s defence?
That’s the genesis a pretty good team, no?
Q: Doug. I think we've heard you mention your favorite beers, such as Stella (which you should never order in Europe unless you want to be thought of as a thug), Yuengling, and such.
How about a grunt's non-beer top 5 adult beverages? Sangria in the summer? A Bloody Mary for hair of the dog? A Sidecar for an old classic? A Mojito as a tribute to Mother Star's old employee Hemingway?
Jonathan M, Tokyo
A: Hmm. I’m tempted to say vodka with red stuff, vodka with clear stuff, vodka with orange stuff but …
Yes, I have had the old Bloody Mary and will tackle a Ceasar every now and then. I don’t mind a nice Sangria on a hot summer afternoon and if I had to sip a nice class of chilled white wine, I would.
And if you put a small glass of black Sambuca in front of me – chilled, of course, I’d be a happy man.
Now, I’m an agreeable sort so I don’t often say no; as proof I recall a night in London with a Former HOTH Turned Henchmen and One Of His New Jersey Nets Assistant Coach Friends – not Sam – that involved tequila that was memorable. But that’s not usually something I’d sip, and Scotch, believe it or not, is an acquired taste I’ve yet to acquire.
Q: Hey Doug, been following you since the days of Nothing but (Inter)Net.
With the movie coming out I finally got around to reading Moneyball. The one thing that stands out to me is that the front office of Oakland took a step back and looked at baseball from a higher level.
Instead of asking themselves "who is a good player" they asked "how do you win ball games" - you score more runs than the other team. From there they took a different set of tools that measured each player in the runs they generated (with offence) to the runs they gave up (playing defence).
My question is if you think a rethinking of game is possible in any other sport. We can use basketball as an example here - in order to win a basketball game your team simply needs to score more points than the other team.
Do you think there is a better way of measuring basketball players in regards to the amount of points they generate. Is there a set of undervalued (or overvalued) players that could help teams win more games.
If not basketball do you think there is any other sport that could use some new statistical tools to better evaluate the players.
Alex W, Scarborough
A: No, I don’t believe “re-thinking” a game – any game – is at all necessary.
Yes, I believe advanced statistical knowledge can help and there are metrics that can be valuable research tools. But there are so many other variables at play – chemistry, coaching style, interaction between front office and coaching staff and playing roster, blind luck when it comes to injuries and scheduling – that it’s anything seemingly radical is a tool rather than a true revision of how things are or should be done.
Q: How about an index of acronyms that you use, for us semi regular readers? I've been trying to guess some of them for months, but really, not having much luck.
S C, Waterloo
A: Really, there are that many so I’ll rattle a few off here:
HOTH: Heroes Of The Hardcourt.
I think that’s a rather kindly description of the Raptors.
TOD: Team Of Destiny.
Back in April and May, I thought there might have been something special about the local nine, seems it wasn’t true.
DWTS: Dancing With The Stars.
Haven’t seen an episode, can someone catch me up?
HWSNBN: He Who Shall Not Be Named.
I can’t say his name. Used to wear No. 15.
IGBT: In-Game Blog Thingy.
It’s what we do every now and then for fun and frivolity during various contests of various professional sports.